Success in Tharparkar: Sunlight, bring me water

Published: August 4, 2014
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The solar-powered water pump has a metering system to measure how much water is being used in every house. PHOTO: MANOJ KUMAR, AWARE

The solar-powered water pump has a metering system to measure how much water is being used in every house. PHOTO: MANOJ KUMAR, AWARE

KARACHI: 

Every day, at 9 am, Bashir Ahmed leaves home for a job he takes very seriously. Making a meagre Rs1,000 a month, the 21 year old solar-powered water pump operator is content. “I am helping people get clean water. I am doing a good deed.” 

Ever since one of the few and perhaps most innovative solar-powered pumps started pulling out water for the people of village Nasrullah Sand in Tharparkar district, Sindh, life has changed for the residents. For the women of this village who normally spent an average of four hours every time they went to pull out water from dug wells, the solar pump is a Godsend. “I used to work to earn for my family only on alternate days, as I had to carry water home with my children every alternate day,” says Fatima, 31 years old and a mother of four. Fatima who contributes to the family income by doing embroidery and sewing clothes will now be able to earn more. The physical stress will also be lesser on Fatima. But not every woman of this village was lucky enough to witness this change in time. “A woman called Amna from my village had no option but to carry heavy water home like most of us, while she was pregnant. She lost her baby. No Amna should have to lose her baby because of carrying water,” says Fatima.

This solar-powered water pump has a capacity to drag out 19,000 liters of underground water daily. The well is some 300 feet deep. But the most innovative part of this well is that it has the metering system. This system ensures keeping a measure of how much water the houses where the water is supplied are using. Until now, lines of water have been set up to some 30 houses in the village. Water is transported from the water tank where water is dragged. The villagers pay the village committee responsible for taking care of the problems of villagers 20 paisas per litre for the water.

With droughts almost a regular feature in Tharparkar, locals rely on dug wells and have traditionally pulled out water manually since generations. Entire families and their animals spend a big chunk of their lives pulling out water. This dragging out of water poses its own set of problems and dangers. “We Thari people survive on Than (cattle) and Kan (grains). Our animals become weak due to pulling water loads. So do our women and children. The rope that pulls out the bucket, when pulled by animals, is dragged into animal waste and soil. The same rope goes into the well. Thus the water would get contaminated. With this technology we are getting clean water at home,” says a relieved Haji Jeearo Sand, a social worker of the area.  “I can’t have enough of this clean water,” adds Fatima.

“Every day, three to four family members plus their animals have to go through this exhausting process for most of the day,” says Jan Muhammad Samoo who works for AWARE (Association for water, applied education & renewable energy). The solar-powered water pump has been introduced in Nasrullah Sand by AWARE with the support of (ADP) Association for Development of Pakistan. The drop-out rate from school of children in Tharparkar is high, and this process of water carrying is a major reason.

Apart from tedious and time-consuming, the process of dragging out water is also risky. On July 16 this year, three labourers were buried alive while digging a well in the village of Unaro Bheel, Nangarparkar. Normally dug wells are dug manually. The diameter of these wells is usually three and a half to four feet, which means if a person slips and topples into it, he has nothing to hold on to. He will fall into the abyss of the well, some 300 meters deep. In many cases, if the earth experiences unfelt vibrations, that is all it takes to topple people into the well.

Tharparkar district is almost always in the news on account of water scarcity, malnourishment, food insecurity and droughts.  The district spread over 22,000 square kilometres has a population of more than 1.4 million and about 5 million in livestock. Between January and March this year, some 200 children lost lives in Tharparkar due to malnourishment and water-borne diseases as a result of drought and scarce clean drinking water. “Water issues lead to migrations, malnutrition and vulnerability to many socio-economic problems,” says Ali Akbar Rahimoo, executive director of AWARE.  “What we need is an integrated water policy for Thar,” he says, adding that the donors investing in this region as well as the government should give priority to solving water issues.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th,2014.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Gulsher Panhwer
    Aug 4, 2014 - 10:56AM

    i have also visted this villaage and seen solar water pump instlled there. the writer has very nciely covered the main features of this excellent and inovative initiavive. this scheme has great potential to be replicated in entire thar by government and public private partnershipRecommend

  • Aqib Ali Shah
    Aug 4, 2014 - 11:52AM

    Such kind of water pumps should be promoted by the WAPDA & Energy Departments of all the provinces, in order to address the issue of water & power scarcity prevailing in our country

    Recommend

  • Mubashir Fida
    Aug 4, 2014 - 1:21PM

    Nice Article

    As far I know the biggest problem in Thar is underground water as the water there has a very high Fluoride content. This causes tooth decay, bones transformation, stomach related diseases, hypertension and kidney stones. My question is how does the system purify water? Is there a reverse osmosis plant or any other filter? similarly how does the project supplies water in 20 paisas per litre any calculations? It is good to see that people in Thar are getting a relief now as they have to fetch water by travelling miles. but ensuring water availability is half the problem addressed. There are also Rainwater harvesting points in Thar which is also and alternative way to get sweet water.

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  • ovais
    Aug 4, 2014 - 1:37PM

    Why cant the incompetent Sind Govt use my tax money for installing these things … why they have to buy new cars and buildings
    Sincerely,

    Karachiite

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  • Random Passerby
    Aug 4, 2014 - 4:16PM

    Is there enough ground water in that region to make this a sustainable solution? Secondly, how clean is this water? Is it fit for human consumption?

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  • Mohammad Siddique
    Aug 4, 2014 - 4:48PM

    @Mubashir Fida:
    You have rightly mentioned that there is fluoride presence in water of Thar and because of that fluorosis issue exists. In village Nasrullah Sand the fluoride presence is belwo the allowable limit of WHO and also TDS is reasonable (belwo 1500ppm). The water of dug wells is already filtered but it gets contaminated when extra particles get into due to open moth of well but in this case the dug well is properly covered and water is coming out through pipe, then stored in over head tank and supplied to each household through gravity force. There is no use of batteries and directly it runs on solar radiation/energy harvested. The minimum charges are only for paying honorarium to operator and make pool for village organization as in case of long run the amount can be used for maintenance.

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  • Mubashir Fida
    Aug 4, 2014 - 5:23PM

    @ Mohammad Siddique
    Makes it much clearer. Thank you.

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  • Munir
    Aug 18, 2014 - 2:31PM

    This is a great initiative indeed and a much-needed relief to our brothers in the Thar region. I wish the Sindh govt. along with NGOs implement this technology to to other villages too.

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